Destruction and Retention of Health Information: Why Innovation Is Urgent

John Lynn

Innovation in a healthcare organization is rarely associated with destruction and retention of health information. AI-driven, blockchain-powered clinical solutions are hot right now, but it’s hard to find innovative solutions fit to solve real problems. Nevertheless, tech has the potential to transform policies on the destruction and retention of health information.

Records retention and destruction policies at most healthcare organizations are a mess of Word documents and Excel spreadsheets stored on a shared drive that is seen about as often as the lost city of Atlantis. Improper information governance puts organizations at tremendous legal risk. Plus, it often increases legal risk because organizations retain old documents longer than was legally required. Records retention and destruction policies shouldn’t be an afterthought.

The future of records retention laws doesn’t promise to be any simpler. In fact, the policies and laws concerning medical records are going to keep growing and evolving — especially as regulations and case law adapt to the relatively new world of electronic records.

What are you doing to keep up with all of these new regulations and laws?

Unfortunately, many healthcare organizations aren’t doing enough. Instead, they treat the destruction and retention of health information as a one-time project of merely creating the policy. Worse, these project-based policy approaches often fail to determine who is responsible for updating and maintaining the policies going forward.

Interestingly, before an innovation, the same type of problem infected clinical decision support. Doctors would attempt to keep up with the latest medical research, but it got so complex that it was impossible for them to follow all of the changes. There was no standard for clinicians until software was developed. Clinical decision support software vetted by a team of doctors now culls the medical research, and multiple healthcare organizations use the software to access the latest medical guidelines. This process creates a clear standard and shares costs across healthcare organizations.

This same type of software should be integrated into policy governance in healthcare organizations. The software should establish a clear standard for a healthcare organization’s policies and be vetted by a team of healthcare policy experts.

Why would healthcare policy software like this make sense? First, it shares the legal research costs among multiple organizations, saving money on lawyers and consultants. Second, the software can assign responsibility, foster a culture of up-to-date compliance and ensure that policies are being applied consistently across the organization. Third, it efficiently demonstrates an organization’s compliance with record-keeping requirements. All of these benefits reduce litigation risk.

If your policies on records retention and destruction have been neglected, your organization may be more at risk and in need of an innovative solution. Using software to apply a standard for data retention and destruction of health information just makes sense. If you’re still using flat files to manage your healthcare policies, it’s time to explore new options that provide better legal defense, promote compliance and help you stay on top of the latest laws and regulations.

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